The Early History of Zimbabwe
About 2000 years ago, Bantu peoples migrated from the north to the south and also came to present-day Zimbabwe. They settled there and displaced the population that already lived there. These were Khoisan peoples who speak a click language.
The Bantu peoples built empires, the remains of which you can still see today. The Karanga Empire emerged from the 12th century. It stretched almost all of Zimbabwe and even further into Mozambique and Botswana. What remains are the ruins of Greater Zimbabwe, where many people lived back then. In the 15th century power waned and the great empire broke up into smaller empires.
The Europeans are coming to Zimbabwe
During the colonial period, many Europeans also came to present-day Zimbabwe. Missionaries opened the first mission station in 1857 and a few years later a German geologist found gold. So the Europeans believed they could get rich in Zimbabwe. They tried to win over the tribal chiefs in order to get financial benefits from the gold mining.
But most of the “gold prospectors” looked down the tube when the skillful British entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes succeeded in 1888 in knocking out a contract between the Ndebele tribe and Great Britain and negotiating the sole prospecting rights for gold. In 1889, Rhodes founded the British South African Company (British South Africa Company, BSAC), which now developed and administered the country. The Matabele Kingdom, which had existed in the area since 1837, was subjugated in 1893.
The area of the Shona and Ndebele, who populated today’s Zimbabwe, was economically developed and expanded by Cecil Rhodes. He founded cities and sent military to the regions. There were violent clashes in which the Shona and Nbedele had little chance against the rifles of the British.
Southern Rhodesia as a model colony
In 1911 the colony of Rhodesia was divided. The south became Southern Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe. The north was called Northern Rhodesia, which is today’s Zambia. As a result, there was repeated fighting between the British and the inhabitants of the Ndebele and Shona. These were suppressed and often had to work in the British mines.
The British expanded the country and so it became a kind of model colony in Africa. This only worked because the British treated the local population badly and hardly paid them for their work. There were no unions and the local people had to pay taxes to their oppressors. BSAC’s rule lasted until 1923, when the British decided to make Southern Rhodesia a self-governing British colony.
A law with consequences for the future
In the 1930s, a land law that expropriated black farmers and favored whites had dire consequences for the local population. Since the locals were not allowed to work as independent farmers, they did not learn how to properly cultivate their farmland. They were only allowed to work like slaves for the white population as underpaid helpers.
People can still feel these consequences today. When President Mugabe reversed land reforms for the black population and expropriated white farmers many years later, the land often fell into the hands of ignorant workers who had never learned how to run a farm profitably. How should they know? For decades they had been banned from cultivating their own land.
The road to independence
The pursuit of independence would take many years. As a country located in Africa according to zipcodesexplorer, Zimbabwe declared itself independent as early as 1965, but Great Britain did not recognize it. The white government of Zimbabwe refused to give up power. So it came to a guerrilla war with many dead and refugees, which was to last until 1979. It was not until 1980 that the country was granted independence and elections took place.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who had previously fought for the freedom of Zimbabwe, won these elections and became first Prime Minister, then President of Zimbabwe. That was the official name of the country. However, many settlers left the country in the years after independence. Zimbabwe embarked on a socialist path under Mugabe. And Mugabe, once elected by the people, developed more and more into a dictator over time.
Robert Mugabe was the eternal president
Mugabe would not have won the 2008 elections, but the opposition withdrew after heavy threats. The opposition party candidate, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, feared for his life. Mugabe also emerged victorious in the 2013 elections, but this was only possible through electoral fraud. This was the only way for the almost 90-year-old to assert himself again. Again the opposition had no chance. Mugabe had a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Mugabe’s successor was Emmerson Mnangagwa
In 2017, Mugabe was dismissed and impeachment proceedings were initiated against him. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeded him. Although Mugabe’s security chief had previously contributed to the deaths of many people, when he took office he promised to eliminate the economic crisis in the country. But also acts brutally against critics of his government.
It is questionable how the country will develop in the future, but it is certainly not yet a democracy. There are still dire human rights violations and no freedom of the press. Resistance to the government is a huge risk. But countries like China, North Korea or Iran, none of which are democracies, want to help Zimbabwe. The country’s raw materials arouse interest. Western entrepreneurs are afraid of the uncertain political situation in the country. It is to be feared that the population will continue to starve and the situation for the people will not improve.